Raphael was hampered by nearly always having a mockie up his nose and a thumb in his mouth
Monday 27 May 1996
"Not all of them," I plead as Hunky Bunky and Peter and Hunky's Father all fly off into the Bermuda Triangle of fluff and John Lewis carrier bags on top of the cupboard.
"I'm leaving him one," he says, Gradgrind incarnate, "Just one in his bed should be enough."
The rabbit culling has a purpose. At the moment, Jacob sleeps all night with a furry green snake. Chloe sleeps with a Captain Scarlet rucksack and Ken (stark naked except for a desert camouflage helmet borrowed from Action Man). And Raphael sleeps with the ears of about seven furry rabbits stuffed up his nose.
Raphael was less than a day old when he learnt to pull the sleeve of his babygro over his wrist and rub his nose with the terry towelling while the opposite thumb lodged in his mouth. We didn't complain. It meant our third baby was that rare and wonderful thing: a newborn who knew how to sleep by himself.
At 18 months, he graduated to his cot blanket - well, fair enough. But, and here was where the rot set in, it was pulled through the bars of the cot and dragged around the house and rubbed against his nostrils at emotionally challenging times of the day. Six months later, Jonathon wisely chopped the blanket into four squares. Christened "mockies" by Raphael, these were infinitely easier to transport, to suck, to find.
"Obviously, we'll have to wean him off them eventually," we told each other. But we were busy and tired, we'd produced a lot of kids in a short space of time and we were trying to work and play and care for them. Life was easier with a mockie around.
Eventually, Jonathon cut each mockie in half. We now had eight half-sized mockies. They looked very small. "He'll notice," I warned.
"Tough." But Jonathon did look a little panicky.
"What are you going to do?" I asked the Man with the Scissors. "Make them smaller and smaller each time till they disappear altogether?"
"That's my cunning, long-term plan, yes."
I had a quick vision of my distraught baby holding a few fibres of mockie cloth between trembling, sucky fingers. Or, worse, a nerdy, bachelor Raphael aged 421/2, clutching a briefcase and a newspaper and a centimetre square of mockie in his sweaty palm as he commuted to an office somewhere in Grownupsville.
Actually, Raphael didn't mind the smaller mockies at all, but a whole new litter of problems was born. They got lost and reappeared down the sides of sofas, under beds, behind bookcases - and sometimes the organised child preferred to carry two at once, one for now and one for later. Just in case.
"This is ridiculous," we chorused. An otherwise secure, lively child, Raphael was physically hampered by nearly always having a mockie up his nose and a thumb in his mouth.
"Comfort objects are fine," soothed every book, magazine or teacher I consulted. "No need to remove them too early." But the mockies weren't mere comfort objects, they were a career, an art, a total preoccupation, a life's work. Our kid did nothing else.
"I'm going to phase them out," said Jonathon finally.
And, one by one, the mockies mysteriously disappeared from our house till there was just one left drying on the radiator in our bedroom. I snatched it up - pale blue and warm and devastatingly furry - and put it in a little box where I keep all my own licky sucky things: the plastic baby name bracelets worn in the hospital, the locks of pale, silky baby hair, the impossibly small vests, the cheap-but-somehow evocative Mothercare velour rattle.
Jonathon, meanwhile, congratulated himself on the mockie-free zone he'd created. But it was short-lived. Raphael had moved on to rabbits. A crowd of nine or 10 toy rabbits had been assembled on his bed and he wouldn't leave the house without a fake fur rabbit ear stuck up his nose.
Hence the cull.
Later on, the kids and I go round to Emily's to see the squirrel, who's had to have a toe amputated at the vet's but is otherwise fine and getting very tame. "Too tame," Emily frets. "It's awful. I'm sure it needed that toe to balance - I don't know how we're going to rehabilitate it into the wild."
The squirrel's a baby, round and fat and grey with bulging black eyes. It runs around Emily's dining room, not seeming to miss the toe. The children shriek with delight, but it remains unfazed.
That evening, I walk down our street to post a letter and kids on bicycles are shouting, and each house is giving up its private smells - fish, gravy, wisteria, babyfood - and someone's putting out bags of paper for recycling and a pair of Jehovah's Witnesses are ringing door bells.
Upstairs, I check the children. Chloe's got her arms around Ken - tonight he's wearing a doll's nappy and a rucksack. Raphael's sleeping with a tin of Batman Pasta.
Emergency call 'started off dumb, but got pretty serious'
Britain First criticised for using actress's memory to draw attention to their 'hate-filled home page'
Thought you'd seen it all after the Jeremy Paxman interview?
Greatest mystery about the hit BBC1 show is how it continues to be made at all, writes Grace Dent
"History is violent," says the US Army tank commander Don "Wardaddy" Collier
Life & Style blogs
Ebola outbreak: Virus to kill 67,000 in Monrovia by December, claims academic study
Nokia no more: Microsoft drops once-ubiquitous mobile name – in favour of its Lumia brand
Ebola: NYC doctor Craig Spencer tests positive for disease after returning from west Africa
Watch what happened when food critics were unknowingly served McDonald's
What do the text messages between you and your partner reveal about your relationship?
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Support for EU membership 'at highest level since 1991' with most Brits wanting to stay 'in'
Thousands with degenerative conditions classified as 'fit to work in future' – despite no possibility of improvement
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Attacks on 'Ukip Calypso' show how skewed people’s priorities are
- 1 This 'woman calls police to order pizza' story isn't going where you're expecting
- 2 Axe wielding man shot dead after attacking four New York policemen on busy street
- 3 Watch what happened when food critics were unknowingly served McDonald's
- 4 Jimmy Carr's Oscar Pistorius joke goes a bit too far at the Q Awards
- 5 Ottawa shootings: Bruce MacKinnon's cartoon is the perfect tribute to soldier Nathan Cirillo
£50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant We are curr...
£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: English Teachers with QTS nee...
£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...
£110 - £130 per day + ?110 - 130: Randstad Education Reading: English Teacher ...